'Recreate This' EP by Bar PandoraReview
Today is release day for the second Bar Pandora EP ‘Recreate This', which follows her eponymous debut in that format from last summer.
It has a slightly different proportion of previously released singles to hitherto unheard tracks: whereas last time out "Two Colours" was the final piece of the jigsaw, this time the title track and "Spin Off" complete the set alongside the earlier singles "Ultramess", "The Model" and "Dynamic": all three of which have reviews in this magazine for you to return to to refresh your memory.
As ever, I prefer to prioritise the creator's own testimony about their music over my attempts to interpret it, and in this instance Charlie Tophill shares this with us: "the tracks on this EP emerged in a cycle of creating, destroying, then creating again. I would write a track, tear it up and stick it back together again and in the process I got a little deeper into what was driving me. The end result is a collection of tracks that I had a lot of fun making and also turned out to be pretty personal. If you pick it apart this EP is really a catalogue of my flaws, fears and insecurities. For me Bar Pandora has always been about following the feels, and a lot of feels happened while I was writing these tracks."
As often previously mentioned and amplified by Charlie's latest disclosures, a cut-up approach is central to her methodology: so don't expect linearity in her songs. When you create such musically interesting material & then proceed to shatter your own composition into fragments, even when you piece them together as imaginatively as Charlie does, (hence the EP title?) what you still get are the resultants shards: often with their edges still sharp and which scintillate as light catches them.
Equally, though so much of her music has this deep personal inspiration, mapping her actual "flaws, fears and insecurities" in literal and direct formats requires some work and repeated listenings (not a bad idea if you want to derive the most from a track) and even then the precise goal of understanding remains rather elusive: one moment seemingly within your grasp and then slipping out of it.
The songs are thus more impressionistic than otherwise & this holds true for all five. The two I'm focusing on today were not selected as singles, so one assumes that Charlie perceived them as less suitable in some way. All of them have a charm and personality of their own: none is so avant garde as to exclude the casual visitor and every one of them can be enjoyed on a very surface level without plunging into the depths of the layered meanings. I'd suggest (tentatively) that since I've previously identified "dance" as a common thread (and the artwork tends to reinforce this), "Recreate This" and "Spin Off" are the most reflective and possibly less dance-inspiring tracks. Maybe that was it. In terms of directness of lyrics or originality of music, there really is nothing between any of them.
These two more contemplative cuts certainly showcase the original fragile beauty of their genesis, curated via their destruction & reconstitution into that crystalline form you might now have before you.
As with all Bar Pandora songs, little elements of musical styles from around the world pop up then disappear again: they keep you engaged and offer such variety that you can't label one "oriental" (for example) in style as such, even if it has such moments.
The title track gives me the impression that somewhere back in the creative process there was an acoustic folk style song, though once Charlie has done with it, only trace elements remain: or maybe the evidence is so fleeting that the association is purely in my own mind? In any event, although Matt Rheeston supports her by playing drum parts live, on here they are wholly her creation and in the case of both songs, I'd venture to say that no "real" drummer would have come up with beats so delicately presented: they have the requisite rhythmic role but sound unlike anything I've heard before in terms of heft & tone.
"Spin Off" too may have a traditional folk root: the beginning is (sort of) an a cappella and Celtic albeit wordless vocal wherein she seems more interested in the sound (and that multiplies into a choir of Charlies) onto which she then superimposes real words and again that gossamer mesh of beats and processed instruments.
As I said, by adopting this approach, the "meaning" of these two is there, but needs reconstructing from what Charlie has done with it. I fully accept that not everyone wishes to deconstruct (and then reconstruct in a different configuration) songs, but given her revelation that there is significance in there, I feel that respect suggests at least trying: not that I would claim much success personally, but I enjoyed the challenge and as noted above, it's a mechanism for bringing me back time and again to the music.
If seeking figurative form in the words is essentially a chimera in the way Charlie has presented them, then her general intention can be at least partially gleaned from the sounds: the two in question have a tentativeness which suggests insecurity and breathy, fragmented lines which reinforce this and have an air of mea culpa.
Charlie continues to show a disdain for recovering old ground & if there is continuity between the two EPs, there is also a restless forward motion. One can be certain that the next set of Bar Pandora songs will build on these but be heading off somewhere else entirely.
The launch event for the EP is tonight as part of "Hatched At The Nest #2" an evening of live performances from artists working in the field of experimental and electronic sound at The Nest, Unit 3 Sandy Lane Business Park Coventry. Charlie is curating this event which also features Lucifer Sky, Riizbo and Izzy Hadlum, all of whom have like Bar Pandora, have recently participated in Talking Birds' (the hosts of the evening), residency programme.